Soo-Young Nam

Panel 1C: Theories and Philosophies of Transcodification/1
Session 1 – July 1, 11:00 – 13:00

The Purloined Codes: Media (Techniques) as Cryptology

The concept of transcodification embraces the data transformation system of today’s digital culture, along with the hermeneutic logic chartered by linguistic semantics.  We are already experiencing various levels of transcodification in the network of arts and cultures, e.g. from Images to numbers, from voices to letters, from formulas to graphs etc. with or without conscious interpretation.  Among these networks of transcoding, this study argues, the visual field is particularly intriguing since it acts as an interface that shows the codes but hides the codification at the most of times.  In fact, visuality is not a homogenous field of one single kind of codes.  The analogue arts of visual recording (photographs, movies, etc.) is based on the belief in homogeneity and continuity between the visible world of matters and “texts.”  The ideal observer here must be able to find all the data if they look carefully: the eyes should be like the magnifier.  But in the transcoded world, we should accept the existence of the code that is missing, which can only be found by different looking: we should constantly re-learn how to look.

The search of this ‘purloined’ code is a methodological experiment reflecting of archeological view from Benjamin, Foucault, and Zielinski, through which I will argue for the need of new cryptology for media techniques in today’s culture.  In the end, the study will show that the notion of transcodification requires of new understanding of media being riddles and puzzles full of gaps and variables, rather than as the mediation of continuous meanings.  I will show that various visual devices of today’s arts, such as Computer graphics, stage equipment and effects, and multimedia techniques can be understood as variations of cryptography of old media.


Soo-Young Nam has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature at New York University and now teaches at the Korea National University of Arts.  Her academic interests have geared toward film and media studies in terms of academic practices and critical theories and phenomenology of visual perception in terms of theoretical orientation.  Her book Historical Memory in the Age of Images: Documentary, Repetition for Subversion won an excellent academic book award of 2010 by the Korean Academy of Sciences.  Recent publications are: “Cinema as Falsehood, and the Power of Truth: A Study on Media-Specificity,” “Unquotability of Cinema Images, Or How a ‘Mustache’ Made a Myth?” and “Cinema as Necessary Archives: Between Silent Images and the Irrepresentable” to name a few